It wasn’t just me who read David Smith’s “Letter from Africa” in The Guardian open mouthed this morning. Fortunately for us, my friend Christopher Vourlias takes the 1,000 word corpse into the operating theatre and dissects it into oblivion. The article is an attempt at a “colour” piece about a trip from Kigali to Goma in the Eastern Congo and it is just plain, bloody awful. More so because the byline says Africa Editor for The Guardian… The guy got paid to write this gibberish… Here’s Christopher’s take,
Smith unpacks 1,000 words on “Congo’s intriguing mixture of fascination and frustration” in a way that makes Congo sound as intriguing, fascinating and frustrating as a weekend trip to Bed, Bath & Beyond. No taxis at the airport in Kigali! No toilet seat at the hotel! Terrible coffee! Harrowing indeed was the perilous, three-hour drive from Kigali to the border in the back of his chauffeured car.
“I dozed on the back seat as the driver put on a CD,” writes Smith.
“The horror!” wrote Joseph Conrad.
What follows is a plodding account of what Smith sees on his day-trip to Goma – a blow-by-blow of “people sitting in grime on the streets,” “the dilapidated state of most of the buildings,” and “the rutted, pot-holed, jolting terrain.” Apart from a brief nod to the fact that this was once “a popular tourist stop for those adventurous enough to drive from one end of the continent to the other,” we learn about as much from this piece as Smith himself presumably did by watching the Congo scroll by outside his window. For an amateur’s travel blog, this is acceptable; for a freakin’ “Africa correspondent” for The Guardian, slightly less so. link
Read it, weep a little and move on. Quickly.
Photo of a Congo car wreck, from the ace new SoloKinshasa blog, seemed appropriate